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Rumsfeld: Three Years into OIF Time for Resolve, Not Retreat

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2006 – Three years after the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, now's the time for resolve, not retreat, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wrote today in an editorial in The Washington Post.

Rumsfeld called turning a back on postwar Iraq today "the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis."

"It would be as great a disgrace as if we had asked the liberated nations of Eastern Europe to return to Soviet domination because it was too hard or too tough or we didn't have the patience to work with them as they built free countries," Rumsfeld wrote.

"If we retreat now, there is every reason to believe Saddamists and terrorists will fill the vacuum and that the free world might not have the will to face them again," he wrote.

Terrorists recognize that they're losing in Iraq and that despite their desperate attempts to prevent it, Iraq is emerging as a free democracy, he noted.

"Consider that in three years Iraq has gone from enduring a brutal dictatorship to electing a provisional government to ratifying a new constitution written by Iraqis to electing a permanent government last December," the secretary wrote.

Voter participation increased significantly with each election, with 12 million Iraqis turning out to vote last December in defiance of terrorists' threats and attacks, he said.

And as more Iraqis have added their voice to their country's future, more Sunnis are participating in the political process. "Sunni sheiks and religious leaders who previously had been sympathetic to the insurgency are today meeting with coalition representatives, encouraging Iraqis to join the security forces and waging what violent extremists...recognize as a 'large-scale war' against them," Rumsfeld wrote.

Terrorists are failing in their efforts to stoke sectarian tension to spark a civil war, he noted. "Despite the many acts of violence and provocation, the vast majority of Iraqis have shown that they want their country to remain whole and free of ethnic conflict," the secretary wrote.

Meanwhile, Iraq's security forces are increasing in size, capability and responsibility, he noted. Some 100 Iraqi army battalions are in the fight and 49 percent control their own battle space. About 75 percent of all military operations in the country include Iraqi security forces, and nearly half of those are being planned, conducted and led by Iraqis.

"This is vitally important, because it is the Iraqis, after all, who must build and secure their own nation," Rumsfeld wrote.

Violence continues to slow Iraq's progress, the secretary acknowledged, but the coalition is making adjustments as appropriate and "doing everything possible to see this effort succeed," he wrote.

The rationale for a free and democratic Iraq is as compelling today as when the coalition launched Operation Iraqi Freedom three years ago today, the secretary noted.

"A free and stable Iraq will not attack its neighbors, will not conspire with terrorists, will not pay rewards to the families of suicide bombers and will not kill Americans," he wrote.

Rumsfeld said the vast majority of Iraqis also want stability and democracy to their country.

"They want better futures for themselves and their families. They do not want the extremists to win. And they are risking their lives every day to secure their country," Rumsfeld wrote. "That is well worth remembering on this anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom."

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Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld

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